Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sailor Moon and the Pretty Guardians are in the final stages of the battle with Queens Beryl and Metalia of the Dark Kingdom, and great sacrifice will be required of all of them. Will they be the same when the war is over? Later a mysterious little girl falls from the sky and demands that Usagi give her the Legendary Silver Crystal. Is she the latest enemy?
This latest volume of the re-release of Naoko Takeuchi's magical girl classic combines original volumes three and four, comprising the end of what anime fans know as “Sailor Moon” and the start of “Sailor Moon R.” It also begins the overarching theme of the series, which is whether or not the mistakes of the past can ever be fully overcome in order to ensure a peaceful and happy future. While the end of the Dark Kingdom storyline does not have the impact that it could. Takeuchi's story is clearly building upon itself, and the lack of dead time between the end of one arc and the start of the next makes this an exciting volume.
In the final showdown with Beryl and Metalia, which takes up the first third of the book, Usagi/Sailor Moon must learn how to harness her own internal strength. This is a common enough theme in magical girl works, and Takeuchi does it particularly well. Usagi, as readers have complained, is not an especially strong heroine – she cries when things go wrong and seems to depend on others to save her much of the time. Now, however, with her friends out of commission and darkness threatening to overcome the earth, she must look within herself, as well as to the tragedy of the past, in order to prevent another sad outcome. These are some of the best pages in the book, detailing both how things went wrong during the Silver Millennium and how she seeks to avoid a repetition. Unfortunately some of the choices she makes leading up to that moment are less than stellar and hardly heroine-worthy, but this can be seen as laying the groundwork for later arcs. It also allows for Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask to play a larger role than he has previously been granted, showing us that he is more than just the token prince charming figure and actually has a part to play. We also, naturally, get to indulge in the redemptive powers of Friendship and the transformative delights of True Love, which reminds us that the target audience of this series is still middle school girls. For readers sufficiently engaged by the story, however, the corny factor should not be a problem.
This volume sees the entrance of one of the least liked characters in the Sailor Moon franchise – pink haired Chibi-Usa. The demanding child falls from the sky and immediately begins wreaking havoc on Usagi's life, and it is easy to dislike her if you take her at face value. Takeuchi, however, provides clues that something has gone drastically wrong in the child's life previous to her entrance on the scene, and that perhaps she should be pitied rather than hated. This is also something that she does with Queen Beryl, whose past is shown during the showdown with the Dark Kingdom. Yes, she has done terrible things, but given what we learn, it is a bit hard not to feel a little badly for her. One of Takeuchi's strengths is that she can give us second thoughts about a character, even after we have made up our minds about them. While monster-of-the-week villains – and we do see some pop up here as the Dark Moon arc gets underway – remain staunchly one-note, it is worth pondering the more significant bad guys, or the good guys who we may not like at first blush.
Takeuchi's art shows little improvement from volume two, but it remains attractive. Her reclining figures have a definite sensuality about them, and while men tend to have lovely feminine waists, everyone is nice to look at. The pages feel a little crowded this time around, mostly due to busy backgrounds rather than overuse of screen tones, but are easy enough to read. Kodansha has a few small typographical errors, such as a lowercase “i” when used as a personal pronoun and spelling “Metalia” as “Metaria” on the character introduction page. There are also a few awkward sounding phrases, but on the whole the translation remains an improvement. (One new translation that may surprise readers is that Jupiter's attack formerly known as “Sparkling Wide Pressure” is now, more logically, “Spark Ring! Wide Pressure.”) As per usual, the first few pages are in color and look very nice. It is worth mentioning that the new cover image of Sailor Mars is the most striking of the covers to date – the computer fire effects in the background and their reflections in her hair make it stand out.
With the conclusion of the first arc and the start of the second, Sailor Moon is off and running. While Usagi still has a long way to go to become the best heroine she can be, Mamoru's improved role and the entrance of both the Black Moon and Chibi-Usa look to be upping the stakes, and as each Pretty Guardian gains new attacks, magical girl aficionados can look forward to an increasingly interesting and complex storyline.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Some real strength is gained by both Usagi and Mamoru, Beryl's initial motivations explained. At least one clear improvement in translation.
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